Skip to content

The Retreat: A Position of dOCUMENTA (13) Banff Research in Culture 2012

Program dates: August 2, 2012 – August 15, 2012 Application deadline: December 2, 2011

Program Information

Program Faculty: Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi and Pierre Huyghe (additional faculty to be announced soon)

Organizers: Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Kitty Scott, Imre Szeman, Heather Zwicker

The Retreat constitutes a section of dOCUMENTA (13) that will take place at The Banff Centre during the course of the exhibition in Kassel, Germany (June 6 – September 16, 2012).

Through the act (v.) and space (n.) of retreat, participants will raise questions about the character of our society and the modes of artistic and cultural investigation being introduced today to create new modes of becoming and belonging.

To enter or enact a retreat (re-trahere = with-draw) is to draw together, in refuge, seclusion, separation, and sharing—not in order to abandon active life with others, but to consider ourselves, with others. The choice to retreat, to move to a space away yet in the world, can open up the possibility of redressing forms of disparity and can disturb relations of power, even if the act itself may seem a reduction of means or a lack of means altogether. By choosing to retreat, one may be seeking an opportunity to withdraw from the bombardment of information with which we are blessed and cursed today. To retreat might constitute a rejection of the deadened political status quo in order to nurture more radical possibilities of human communality. One may step away from mainstream society and human interaction by following a religious or spiritual vocation to retreat, entering a concentrated space of silence and meditation to re-centre living and dying. Devising alternative economies based on gifting, barter, and exchange rather than on money is also an example of a retreat from the dominant socio-economic paradigm. All these modes of retreat point to opportunities for the strengthening and revitalization of body and spirit in order to return to that dangerous mess of social life and everyday consciousness that is caught up in the speed of contemporaneity. Retreat is not abandonment of social challenges, political antinomies, or cultural dead ends, but a temporary condition whose intent is to generate permanent change.

The question of why the practice of retreat is important, of why it is different from forms of self-alienation, and of why (what might seem like) passivity could be a positive form of agency, remains open. However, the notion and the act of retreat, withdrawal or exodus could be a necessary ground for politics and the politics of aesthetics today, since the productive process of cooperative constitution at the core of the social also owes its potential and validity to the act of spontaneous refusal. Politics and art are projects of infinite creative production triggered by a force that always starts from choice—choosing to do or not to do—and propelled forward by local affections and joyful passions. In retreat, consciousness produces itself by stating the full presence of the present-being without witness and without stage, sensing a homo- or homeo- (‘similar’ or ‘common’ or ‘shared’ in Greek, belonging to humus or the ‘earth’, rather than to homo-, ‘human’, as in Latin) enriched by the love of a collective intelligence yet to be regained.

In The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes states, “there is only one way left to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it.” The Retreat of dOCUMENTA (13) and Banff Research in Culture will generate new ways of retreating ahead of the limits, aporias, problems, and crises of a century caught between imaginative and conceptual fertility and sterility—not to effect some questionable escape, but to allow for the generation of new spaces of openness, freedom, and possibility.

Program Details

Banff Research in Culture (BRiC) is a research residency program designed for scholars engaged in advanced theoretical research on themes and topics in culture. In 2012, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, junior faculty (pre-tenure), activists, writers, and practicing artists from around the world will convene at The Banff Centre to contemplate the theme of “the retreat” for two weeks in this intensive summer residency.

BRiC is designed to offer researchers with similar interests from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds an opportunity to exchange opinions and ideas. Participants are encouraged to develop new research, artistic, editorial, and authorial projects, both individually and in connection with others.

During the residency, participants will attend lectures, seminars, and workshops offered by visiting faculty from around the world. The residency will help to develop new approaches toward the study and analysis of culture, as well as creating lasting networks of scholars who might use this opportunity as the basis for future collaborative work.

The Banff Centre is a world-renowned facility supporting the creation and performance of new works of visual art, music, dance, theatre, and writing. The 2012 edition of BRiC, on the theme of “the retreat,” is organized in conjunction with dOCUMENTA (13), one of the world’s most important regularly occurring exhibitions of contemporary art.

This program is generously supported by The Banff Centre, the Canada Council for the Arts, dOCUMENTA (13), The Kahanoff Foundation, and the University of Alberta.

Program Fees

Program Fee: $1064 (shared room), $1475 (single room) Program fees reflect the cost of accommodation, meals and tuition at The Banff Centre. This program is generously supported by The Banff Centre; the Canada Council for the Arts; dOCUMENTA (13); The Kahanoff Foundation; the Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies, the Faculty of Arts, Vice-President Research, and the Senate of the University of Alberta. Includes: • Regular flex meal plan for duration of program. Additional meal credits can be purchased through the Office of the Registrar at any time during the residency as individual needs require. • Accommodation for duration of program (single rooms subject to availability) • Shared office space (no studio space or access to studio facilities) • Access to Banff Centre facilities including the Paul D. Fleck Library, Sally Borden Recreation Centre, and artist rates for Banff Centre events Please note that the program fee is subject to change. GST will be applied to the program fee, where applicable. Applicants are also encouraged to approach their local arts councils and agencies for financial assistance to offset travel costs.

How to Apply

For more information on the program, including information on how to apply, please visit:

For more information regarding the BRiC program please write to